Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — If a Deron Williams fan club breaks out in Boston, Doc Rivers just might join the group.
Well, he might after cooling off following his ejection from the Celtics' 110-97 loss in which Williams scored 22 points with 11 assists.
Earlier Monday, though, Boston's coach had nothing but praise for the Jazz's All-Star.
"I love him. He's terrific," Rivers said of Williams after a morning shootaround.
"You can't have a conversation about best point guard in the NBA (without mentioning him) — he has to be in it," Rivers continued. "He has to maybe be the first guy you talk about."
Yes, that might have been a hearty postgame "Amen!" you heard from Jazz coach Jerry Sloan's locker room.
"He played a terrific game, no question about it," Sloan said. "(He) made some great passes and ran some great plays."
Williams only hit 5 of 14 shots, but the way he attacked Boston's defense helped send him to the free-throw line 11 times — where he cashed in on every attempt — and also took a foul-plagued Rajon Rondo out of his game.
Rondo only had six points and six assists, as the Jazz surged past the overwhelmed Celtics in the second half. Williams had nine points and, more importantly, eight assists as the Jazz turned a five-point halftime deficit into a commanding double-digit lead in the second half.
Williams believes his aggressiveness helped neutralize Rondo's assertiveness.
"They're a better team, I think, with Rondo on the floor, him distributing, getting into the lane and making things happen," Williams said. "Getting him in foul trouble took away his aggressiveness. ... I think that was definitely a key part of the game."
Sloan also thought Williams did a nice job of helping the Jazz bigs on defense because he was able to sink off of Rondo, who only hit 2 of 7 shots.
Rivers, a former NBA point guard himself, wasn't shy when it came to raving about Williams during his team's annual Utah visit.
"He does everything — he shoots the ball well, he makes great decisions, defends, he's a big guard that can post up," Rivers said in the morning. "I don't know what more you want in a point guard."
Boston's bench boss is also impressed with Williams' team-first style — something he noted before the Jazz point guard made the Celtics pay while he did just that Monday night.
"He doesn't need the ball in his hands for 24 seconds," Rivers said. "But he can have the ball in his hands for 24 seconds, and that makes him special."
One tactical aspect of Williams' game makes him extra special, Rivers pointed out. He loves how the 6-foot-3, 207-pound Williams uses his body and gets his shoulder in front of smaller guards.
"He plays body positions as well as any guard in the league, 1, 2 or 3. Him and LeBron (James), they both do it," Rivers said. "If you get on the side of those guys, it's over, the play is over. Now you're just hoping he makes a bad decision or misses a shot, but he's getting what he wants."
The Celtics spent part of Monday's shootaround session strategizing about how to defend Williams.
"We want to pressure him," Rivers said, "but you're scared to turn him because if you turn him and he gets to the side of you then the play's over. He makes it difficult."
Rivers, who played in Atlanta and three other NBA teams between 1983-96, laughed when a media member mentioned that Williams is a big point guard in his mold.
"I wish," the 6-foot-4 Rivers said, "I was that talented of a big point guard."
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